Published: June 3, 1999
Ed Silverstein | Faifield Minuteman
When Antoinette Allocca started her own business, there were many risks. But in just three years, the company, Essential Data Corp., has grown from $1 million to $20 million in total annual sales and recently was recognized by Working Woman Magazine as on the top 500 women-owned businesses in the country.
There were many ups and downs along the way, but Allocca and her husband Mark Greenspan, kept faith in themselves and persevered.
Last week, she shared her secrets with other women business owners, or those with dreams of being one, during a Bridgeport forum sponsored by the Stamford-based Women’s Business Development Center.
Allocca was hard working from the time she was a child. Her mother, who was a single parent, motivated her to achieve financial independence.
She shoveled snow, baby-sat, was a mother’s helper, waitress and salesperson in a store. She grew to realize she had the skills and the passion for selling.
After college, she worked as a salesperson for Burlington Industries, later opting to work for a small programming services company which was starting a technical writing division.
“I fell in love with that profession,” Allocca recalls. Even though she had gotten a “D” in a computer class in college, it did not matter. She did very well.
But after seven or eight years she came to realize that even though she was making a relatively good salary, she only got a small percentage of the profit.
In addition, she and her husband had purchased a house in Stamford and started to raise a family.
They decided to start Essential Data in 1988. It is a technical writing, documentation and training company. Allocca is president.
“Even though it was a struggle,” Allocca said, “there is no way I could have continued the commute into New York. We were able to carve out a living.”
They had a 200-square foot office in shared quarters in Stamford, and she did the sales work. Bus she just could not keep on doing it on her own.
She recalls that things started to change for her after she took a course for years ago sponsored by an organization, which later became the Women’s Business Development Center.
A management consultant suggested that they hired seasoned people who had been downsized recently.
“I would have never thought of that,” Allocca said. So she decided to look for retirees, and one man came for an interview. He was hired immediately. Within four months, he grossed $100,000 in sales. The company moved to a 400-square-foot office and put an ad in the newspaper for more sales personnel. The ad said there was $100,000 potential.
People came forward, excellent salespeople. They were hired.
“It was just an incredible team, Allocca said, “They did so much business so quickly, I didn’t have to sell anymore.”
Along the way, she developed a close relationship with her bank, Citibank, and it has cooperated with Essential Data, allowing the company a line of credit.
Now the company has a 3,000-square-foot office in Stamford and has a large sales staff. It has been recognized for its diverse workforce, and Working Women singled out the company for its 1,900 percent increase in sales in three years, calling it a “dizzying climb.” The White House honored the businesses on the magazine’s list through a special event.
Allocca’s story was meaningful to her Bridgeport audience.
“She’s really inspirational,” said Cindy Clark owner of Delightfully Yours, a corporate gift service which she founded in Norwalk. “One thing is, she hung in there.”
“Antoinette really, really did her homework,” added Fran Pastore, executive director of the Women’s Business Development Center. “She was really patient and diligent and stuck with it.”